Lesley Howard

Lesley Howard

Citizen Journalist at No Fibs
After shouting at the television for many years Lesley decided participation was the best antidote to cynicism. She has a keen interest in supporting sound environmental social practice, communities and democracy in action. Lesley has a Masters of Science, Applied Statistics.
Lesley Howard
Lesley graduated from the University of Melbourne with dual majors in Statistics and History and Philosophy of Science. The combination of the two fields formed a strong background in objective research, critical appraisal and the analysis of relationships, and in assessment and reporting. With this skill base she has variously consulted for an Australian timber company analysing the unloading of logs in Chinese ports, reported on the role of SMEs in Defence, critically analysed scientific papers, designed and advised on surveys and sampling for various private and government groups, and reviewed and advised on research proposals as a member of the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s MHREC. Lesley has a keen interest in supporting sound environmental social practice, communities and democracy in action. She is currently completing a Masters of Science, Applied Statistics.

I’D LIKE TO begin by acknowledging the Garigal people as the traditional custodians of this land we are meeting on today, and thank them for protecting this coastline and its ecosystems since time immemorial. We pay our deepest respects to their elders past, present and emerging. 

Greg Mullins, Lisa Forrest and Ed Halmagyi – thank you so much for your introduction and words. You all command our respect and admiration – in so many ways – and I can’t thank you enough for your support.

My name is Sophie Scamps

I am honoured and excited to be standing here today, as your independent candidate for Mackellar. Honoured because, like you, I absolutely love this community and this place we live in.

And excited – because we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us. The opportunity to make a real difference to the future of this community, this country and to the future of our children.

As you heard, I’ve played a role in looking after this community for 20 years – in the emergency department at Mona Vale Hospital and as a local GP in Narrabeen. But now, more than ever, what Mackellar needs is strong, authentic, visionary leadership to take on the challenges that face us.

However, as one of the safest seats in the country, the VOICE of Mackellar has been missing from the national debate – because we have been ignored and taken for granted.

And as we’ve seen with the wave of community-backed Independents announcing their candidacies in recent weeks and months – we’re obviously not alone in feeling this way.

So, I’ve stepped aside from the job I love, to listen to you and to be OUR voice in Canberra. The Voice of Mackellar.        

It’s been a journey

Three years ago – after waiting and hoping for years for our government to act on climate change – I realised they never would. I realised, as Cathy McGowan puts it, ‘there was no cavalry coming over the hill to save us’ – there was only us.

So three years ago when my son’s 12 year-old friend earnestly told me – ‘You adults have failed us on climate change’ – I started a community group to reduce waste and pollution locally.

And when, with smoke still thick in the air from the Black Summer Bushfires, our current member sent out a tick-a-box survey to find out what issues were important to this electorate – and climate change did not appear on that list – I co-founded Voices of Mackellar with five other fabulous local women to find out what really mattered to Mackellar.

Then when people repeatedly asked us how they could support an independent for Mackellar, but no such group existed, my good friend Anyo Geddes and I stepped aside from Voices of Mackellar and started Mackellar Rising.

And now I’m here. I have been privileged to work closely with local people. As a family doctor I get to know people and their families deeply, the difficulties they face, and the concerns they have.

And I have heard even more through the Kitchen Table Conversations which many of you here have been a part of. It has taught me so much about our community, what it stands for and what is important to us.

We have spoken about why we all live here and raise our families here. We treasure our natural surroundings, our beaches, our bushlands, our sports fields and lagoons. And we value the strong sense of community that we have here. 

Let’s call it the Spirit of Mackellar that runs through our daily lives.

Anger and frustration

People also tell me just how frustrated and angry they are with politics and politicians in this country. 

It’s a frustration with politicians who ignore us, and don’t listen to the community they are supposed to represent.  

It’s a frustration with the failure to protect our way of life in Mackellar by taking real action on climate change – and by ending once and for all any possibility of drilling for oil and toxic methane gas off the OUR Northern Beaches –

It’s a frustration with being unable to uphold basic levels of integrity in our politics – and decency in our parliament, especially for the women who work there.

Hope and Opportunity

But that community spirit of ours – the Spirit of Mackellar – gives me great hope that we can achieve a much better way of doing politics, & action on the things that need to be done.

I see that spirit every time I fire the starting pistol at Little Athletics, hear the school choir sing, or see young people protesting for climate action. I see it in the patients I’ve treated throughout the years – some dealing with difficult times, but doing so with amazing strength, resilience and, often, humour.

I see it when I talk to small business owners, who have struggled and scraped to make it through every lockdown and keep their staff employed. I saw it during the Black Summer Bushfires when we supported rural communities with collections and donations.

I saw it during the Northern Beaches lockdown last year, when we all stayed connected and supported each other to help keep the rest of Sydney and Australia safe. And I see it in the work of locals like Sam Elsom, who has moved to Tasmania to work on his project to produce seaweed that reduces cattle methane emissions = a change that is set to decarbonise our agricultural sector. 

Our representative recently declared on national television that ‘one person can’t change the world’, but the Spirit of Mackellar says – yes we can. You are the spirit of Mackellar and you deserve to be heard and have your values represented in Parliament. 

Broader movement

And when we look beyond Mackellar, there is even more reason for hope. Because our movement for an independent here is part of a much larger wave of change occurring across the country

The current government only has a majority of one. So if even a couple more community backed independents are elected, like Zali Steggall next door, and Kerryn Phelps, it would change the way parliament works, for the better. And Barnaby Joyce would no longer be able to hold OUR country hostage.

As an Independent all my votes in parliament will be conscience votes and a vote for my community, not another vote for the party machine.. And having an independent representative will ensure that this community’s wishes come first, that your priorities are taken to parliament.

Research shows that a top priority for this electorate is taking strong and urgent action on climate change – and definitely NOT waiting until 2050 when it will be too late. The world – is telling us. Our children are telling us. Even the Business Council of Australia is telling us.  

Because, if we don’t take action now, we’re going to face worse bushfires and storms, and coastal erosion that will threaten our way of life here on the northern beaches.

If we don’t take action now, we will face increasing health risks. The Australian Medical Association has recognised climate change as a health emergency – and new research shows that air pollution and smoke not only harm our lungs but also harm our brains.

If we don’t take action now, our families and small businesses will face higher electricity prices, as public money is used to prop up more expensive, highly polluting forms of power.

If we don’t take action now, we’re going to lose out on jobs and opportunities to other countries who seize this moment – & out-compete us in the clean energy race.

But our current representative refuses to listen

Incredibly, he even just voted to keep ACTIVE a license for mining companies to drill for oil and methane just out there – off our Beaches. 

Who else here is ashamed, that instead of leading in this race, Australia is ranked dead last on climate change policy?

And the question is why, why aren’t they acting?

Renewables are the cheapest source of electricity and are driving down power prices for families & businesses. We should be embracing these technologies, not disparaging them.

And the world needs our resources to transition to clean energy — nine out of the ten minerals used to make electric vehicle batteries are mined right here in Australia. So Australia should be one of the biggest champions of clean energy on the world stage.

And Australia has one of the worst records of electric vehicle take-up and car emissions standards in the world – thanks to a Prime Minister who has spent years mocking them. We could be powering our cars with Australian sun and wind instead of being dependent on imported oil and rising petrol prices.

The Global Clean Energy boom could represent tens of thousands of high-income jobs for Australians across the country – if we got out of the slow lane.

The Business Council of Australia warns that if we don’t act soon we will miss out. And that we are already significantly out of pocket because we have been slow to take up the opportunities that the new clean energy sector offers.

We need to be blasting out of the blocks on this – like our great Northern Beaches sprint legend Melinda Gainsford. Instead, we have a government stuck behind the starting blocks, being pulled backwards by Barnaby Joyce 

The time for waiting is over – the time for action is now

We also need to act now to clean up the polluted state of politics in this country and bring back decency, integrity and accountability to our parliament.

As a doctor I adhere to a professional code of conduct in which TRUST is sacrosanct and doctors don’t accept gifts because of the potential for bias. And we swear an oath to ‘first do no harm’. But I look at what’s occurring in Canberra, and I see so much harm being done. 

We learnt only this week that one out of three people working in parliament has experienced sexual harassment — even assault. One out of three.

Our government can’t function if it fails half of the population.

When it comes to our politicians, we are currently asked to operate on the basis of ‘blind trust’ – with secrecy on where their money is coming from – and no federal anti-corruption commission to provide oversight or hold them to account.

I will support greater transparency on political donations and truth in political advertising.

I will fight for a strong, anti-corruption watchdog for the federal parliament to restore trust in our democracy

I will support the introduction of a professional code of conduct for parliamentarians and their staff.

And I will fight to make parliament a safe and respectful place for women to work and lead, and make that a reality for all workplaces across the country.

It’s time for a better way of doing politics and for behaviour in Canberra that sets the standard. We need to create a culture in Canberra that is constructive, respectful and focused on getting things done.

Tipping point

And we need to do this now:

We are at a critical tipping point in the history of our community, our country, our climate AND our democracy. We know that the next decade will determine what our planet looks like for future generations. So, the next three years are absolutely crucial to setting Australia on the right path.

We are in the race of our lives

We need to free ourselves from a government that has its agenda and policies dictated by Barnaby Joyce. We need a seat at the negotiation table that comes with being Independent, not a spot on the back bench. We need a genuine vote in parliament for our values – and the needs of our community. But we are up against powerful party machines that stand to lose a lot if we win.

The only way we can win is together.

I promise you that I’ll bring all my experience as a competitive athlete, a local GP, an emergency doctor, and a mum – to fight this.  And I will give it everything I have.

But I am only one voice. This campaign is about all of our voices. It is about the Spirit of Mackellar, in every one of you, and in each of your actions in the weeks and months ahead. This campaign is about all of us.  

As Cathy McGowan likes to say – ‘If not now then when ….?’

It’s time to vote with our values.

It’s time to stand up for the needs of our community.  

It’s time to be independent of party control

It’s time to take the true Spirit of Mackellar to Canberra.

Thank you

I’d like to give a heartfelt thank you to the entire team – most of whom are volunteers – who have been working around the clock to get this campaign off the ground. Like me they are 100 per cent committed and passionate about achieving genuine representation for Mackellar in Canberra.

A huge thank you also to my family and to every one of you who has been a part of supporting and growing the movement. A strong democracy requires the participation of its people. So I thank you all for stepping up, speaking up and turning up today.

And I have to say a VERY special thank you to ANYO GEDDES – without whom none of us would be here today.